Between: one typeface, cooked three ways

A typeface with an unusual sense of self, Akira Kobayashi's Between works more like a balanced recipe than a conventional font family.

Divided into three states of being – Between 1, Between 2 and Between 3 – its distinct design ingredients combine to create different typographic flavours and outcomes.

Whether it's the technical, modern character of Between 1, or the lively and organic personality of Between 3, each part of the typeface works in harmony. While sharing the same cap height and x height, the styles imbue individual characters with subtle quirks – adding some unexpected spice to the typographic recipe.

Although a new release, Kobayashi sketched the first version of Between in the 1990s and started formally working on it in 2013. After showing it to fellow Monotype designer Nadine Chahine, the idea for a family with different “energy levels” emerged. Accepting that this would make it an unconventional font family, the designer says it was important Between worked hard without relying on gimmicks.

Between answers a growing need for companies to adopt a more flexible typographic tone of voice

The design embodies the DNA of DIN – a typeface which has been popular for more than a decade – but attempts to soften it somewhat, lending greater friendliness. Between 1 blends the industrial character of DIN and Eurostile with the humanistic style of Frutiger, adding an important element of approachability.

“The overall impression of Between 1 should be rigid and robust, that's the reason why the letters such as O looks rather squarish, but the glyphs such as the C and the S, and also some lowercase letters and the numerals, have open counters, which normally is the characteristic of humanist sans,” explains Kobayashi.

Between 2 focuses on natural-looking letterforms, while Between 3 is a more lighthearted attempt to integrate a handwritten style.

“If typefaces had voices, the voice of Between 3 might sound very young fresh and lively,” adds Kobayashi.

The design has been tailored to the kinds of brands people see and interact with every day, particularly food, entertainment, sport and fashion – all of which require approachable typographic voices, and greater versatility when it comes to font combinations.

Kobayashi suggests that the geometric personality of Between 1 could be useful for technology brands in need of a more human personality, while Between 3's organic appearance might work well for artisan brands and natural products.

The typeface is accompanied by an equally unusual and playful specimen, designed by Pentagram, that attempts to echo the aims of the design.

“In our first meeting, Akira described tempers or energies,” says Pentagram partner Abbott Miller. “So that was provocative, and demanded something different as a result.”

The specimen uses the culinary comparison as a starting point, taking the egg as a visual motif and way of representing the contrasting character of each of the fonts.

“We felt like the egg provided a clarity of form that is very linked with the visual spirit of the typeface,” adds Miller. Typographically speaking, the word egg also offers a chance to show off the different faces of the design, which are highlighted in the comparison between the e’s and the g’s.

“It helps to connect typefaces iconographically with something that's recognisable,” adds Miller. “It almost mentally associates itself with the character of the font.”

And while the specimen is as experimental in approach as the typeface itself, Kobayashi is confident that, despite its unconventional arrangement, Between answers a growing need for companies to adopt a more flexible typographic tone of voice.

“A lot of worldwide corporations and brands have started to use rounded or humanist sans, instead of cool and steady Helvetica,” concludes Kobayashi. “I think 'approachable' is one of the keywords which describes the trend. Between is my attempt to fuse coolness and warmth.”

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